Scout.com's Adam Caplan gives the Vikings the highest ranking among the national outlets. He has elevated them from a preseason No. 8 to No. 2 now.
"Having Brett Favre behind center certainly makes this team more interesting. He'll bring more stability for at least one season on offense," Caplan writes. "The offensive line remains a huge issue, however. The defense is looking solid once again.
Caplan has the Packers ranked 12th and the Bears 16th.
ESPN's panel of four NFL reporters ranked the Vikings ninth overall, but they were one of the teams that had a wide disparity of opinions. John Clayton had them ranked fourth while Paul Kuharsky had them ranked 14th. The Bears and Packers tied for the 11th spot, but the panel gave the Bears the edge based off last year's records.
"The Vikings, Packers and Panthers generated the widest gap between highest and lowest votes – 10 spots apiece," panelist Mike Sando wrote in his assessment of the rankings.
The Lions ranked last in ESPN's poll, which significantly hurt the overall ranking of the NFC North, making it the fifth-hardest division in the league, according to those rankings.
USA Today gave all four teams in the NFC North grades ranging from A-plus to A-minus in the newspaper's rankings of each NFL team's offseason.
The Chicago Bears got an A-plus with this analysis, referencing Jay Culter: "You land a franchise quarterback entering his prime, no matter what else you do, you get high marks from us. (The Orlando Pace signing was nice, too.)"
The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers each registered an A. Here were the comments for each of those teams:
"Detroit Lions: You get a potential franchise quarterback and three other potential starters in the draft, import two quality starting linebackers and hire a bright, young coach to lead you back from an 0-16 netherworld, and you also get high marks from us.
"Green Bay Packers: This team wasn't very far removed from going 13-3 in 2008 instead of 6-10. QB Aaron Rodgers is a blossoming star, piloting an offense stocked with talent. And Dom Capers' newly installed 3-4 defense looks poised to pay big dividends. Biggest question: What happens if Rodgers goes down?"
The Vikings, meanwhile, received an A-minus but were still the last team in the division when it came to offseason activity. Here is what the paper had to say about their offseason:
"Game-breaking rookie weapon on offense? Check. Return of injured middle linebacker? Check. Acquisition of NFL's most decorated quarterback? Check. Seamless integration of said quarterback? Umm … Resolution of starting defensive tackles' potential suspensions? Umm … no."
Of course, it now appears that last issue is taken care of, at least for this season. The Vikings' opponent on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns, didn't do so well. They received an F from USA Today
"Didn't get enough from Jets for pick that netted Mark Sanchez. Draft class looks suspect. New coach Eric Mangini hardly seems enamored of his quarterbacks, and Mangini's new players hardly seem enamored of him."
The Vikings haven't yet revealed their full intentions with using Percy Harvin, but it's clear he will be a multi-dimensional player that is used in the Wildcat, on reverses, taking and giving handoffs in the backfield, as a receiver and as a return man.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell recounted his discussion with head coach Brad Childress regarding Harvin after the Vikings used their first-round pick on him.
"Coach said, ‘You are going to have to get the guy the ball. The guy's a playmaker. You have to come up with new ways to get him the ball, whether it's handing it to him, throwing it to him, all different ways that you can get it to him,'" Bevell said. "As soon as we did draft him he (Coach Childress) said, ‘Where is the list?' He wasn't messing around. There was a lot of conversation that we talked about in case that happened. What we would want to do and how we would use it. Obviously, we did some research during the offseason and the draft time to see what we would do if it fell that way."
The Vikings won't be the only team on the field in Cleveland with a versatile, elusive playmaker. Joshua Cribbs is the Browns' version of that player.
"People are going to give you uncharted looks, unscouted looks," Childress said of the first game of the season. "Yeah, he (Cribbs) certainly has that ability. Not that any of their other running backs or wideouts don't have that ability, but he looks like he can do some different things in that single-wing position, as well as be a reverse runner, as well as being a starting receiver. If you want to put him in the Devin Hester category, you could do that, just from the standpoint that he is a returner who now is a starting receiver who now has multiple skills."
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is well aware of Cribbs versatility and the guessing game that will result on defense.
"That does present some challenges," Frazier said. "He's a heck of a player with the ball in his hands. So you got to be aware of him and we got to be able to tackle him. He is an All-Pro returner and he does a great job when he has the football in his hands. So we got to be aware of him wherever he is on the field."
While the Vikings are left to guess how Cribbs will be used in the Mangini era in Cleveland, the Browns also don't know exactly how the rookie Harvin will be used.
"The one thing that is unique about the first game of the season is, you don't have a lot of real tape to base it on and there's things that are being held on both sides," Mangini said. "You may think it's going to be one thing and it could be something totally different. You have to plan for a few more contingencies. Sometimes you hit it right and sometimes you hit it not so right and you have to adjust more on the sideline. Sometimes, and this is true in any game, you have a great plan, you feel really good about it, you go in and it's not quite as good as you think it is."
LB Ben Leber was asked what Brett Favre brings to the Vikings offense: "Just the leadership and the way he commands everything. The one thing that, playing against him when he was in Green Bay, he was the master of looking everybody off and looking the other way. And then sometimes he'll mix it up on you, so he kept you guessing with his eyes."
Mangini on defensive tackle Shaun Rogers compared to Pat and Kevin Williams: "I think they're all guys that can really disrupt an offense. They all are physical in the running game, as well as can create pass rush. I like all three of their motors. There's a great clip yesterday, from practice, where the quarterback ends up scrambling out to our left and Shaun Rogers, the acceleration that he had from where he was to the quarterback, you would have thought he was a sprinter. That's a big man, closing fast. Force equals mass times acceleration. If he gets there, I like that formula."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.